Sep 18, 2014
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RSS By: Ben Potter,

Technology editor Ben Potter brings you the latest in technology news, and how you can apply it to farming.


How Much Is That Wiretap in the Window?

Jul 16, 2014

After covering big data issues for the past year, I've seen a farmer concern that always bubbles to the top - worry over data privacy and security. That point was definitely driven home yesterday when I stumbled across an interesting story on wiretaps.

Two things in particular caught my attention. First, it’s interesting to see where the wiretaps are happening. According to the article, from, four states account for 50% of the government’s wiretapping activity: Nevada (the runaway leader), Colorado, California and New York. You can see where your own state makes the list here.

The second point is more relevant to agriculture. You see, a legitimate farmer concern is if they’re collecting data using a third party – and this is common among OEMs, precision ag companies and even seed companies – is how readily they would fork over your data to the U.S. government upon request, and at what cost.

A precedent of sorts has been set with law enforcement wiretapping. Here is what various companies charge for "wiretapping services."

• T-Mobile: $500 per target
• Sprint: $400 per "market area" and per "technology," plus a $10 per day fee not to exceed $2,000
• AT&T: $325 activation fee, plus $5 per day for data and $10 for audio
• Verizon: $50 administrative fee plus $700 per month per target

Data requests for voicemail or text messages cost extra. And all four telecom firms offer "tower dumps" that let police see the numbers of every user accessing a certain cell tower over a certain time at an hourly rate.

Hopefully, there will never come a day when the EPA or other governmental agency comes calling for farmer data. But if and when it happens, know that the adage is true – everything really does have a price.

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